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Thread: Overhead power drops

  1. #1
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    Overhead power drops

    In a couple weeks I will be able to get into the new house and begin wiring the two car garage for my shop. I am beyond tired of cords running around the floor in my current shop. All the big tools are mobile. I have no idea what the lay-out of the equipment will be at this point. I want to install a couple 110 & 220 drops from the ceiling. What type of reels or other methods do you suggest?

  2. #2
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    When I built my shop, I knew that every 240V machine (except the dust collector) would be on wheels so I distributed three outlets across the ceiling and have three fixed drop cords that clear my head by a foot or so.

    Though I wired 4 120V outlets on each ouf the 25 foot long walls, I recently installed a 40 foot cord reel (from Rockler) on the ceiling fairly equidistant from the 4 walls. It has also served as a convenient power supply outside the shop for tire inflators, the electric wood splitter and battery chargers.

  3. #3
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    Personally, I dislike cord "reels". Those that can support 20 amps are expensive and generally too long to be practical for in-shop use...you're paying for a lot of cord that you're not going to use and that length theoretically can reduce electrical performance. Not much, but a little. For 240v, there really isn't much out there for pre-made cords. So my preference if a hard drop isn't possible (hard drop is only really suitable for non-mobile tools) I'd prefer a strain relief equipped short drop that allows the machine cord to be plugged in above head level but within reach. For 240v, my preference would remain twist locks which is my own standard for on the wall receptacles, too.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Frederick View Post
    I want to install a couple 110 & 220 drops from the ceiling. What type of reels or other methods do you suggest?
    A better way to service your mobilized machinery is to have a belt of outlets around the walls of the shop, so that there's generally one nearby. My logic is that it's often easier to step over a cord near the wall (esp. if it's covered with a raceway) than it is to maneuver your long piece of stock among a forest of hanging cords that tie off to machinery.

    As far as cord reels go, I only use one for light-amperage draws. It's the only sub-20A outlet in my shop, a leftover that I brought in for occasional convenience. As Jim notes, 20A cord reels are expen$ive. Furthermore, you don't want to run any heavy draws through a coiled cord, as it may heat up and cause a hazardous condition.

    One way to run "drop cords" is to hang them from a strain relief, then leave a belly in the line and attach a shock cord to hold it conveniently high. Leave enough of the plug end hanging down to grab when you need it, and you've saved the cost, weight, and hassle of hanging a cord reel.

    Installing one or two weatherproof outlets on the outdoor walls of your shop will also reward you in the future. That's where you plug in tire inflators, drop lights, electric smokers, your patio karaoke machine, etc.
    --Jack S. Llewyllson

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  5. #5
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    Drop cords with strain relief fittings works great. I use 12-3 with ground type SJO cords, with twist locks. I also have a few 120 volt 12 gauge single phase cords hanging down that get used a lot. When not in use, the cords get pulled back and tucked behind something stationary, like blower pipe. Lots of wall outlets help to have extension cords run to work areas without being under foot.

  6. #6
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    Contrary experience here. I have had two 12ga cord reels in a 20 x 30 shop for many years and always been glad. I included ceiling outlets for the same in my new shop. One is up and the other will move from the garage when I am "done" in there. The price of things today makes these decisions different. I am still running a Harbor Freight 40', 12ga reel that I bought for about $35 15 years ago. Certainly you need to use good cord practices and not heavily load cables while most of it is in the reel. For sanders, routers and such I have no heat issues with only 20 feet or so pulled out. JME. I bought a Rockler version during a sale for about $80 a couple of years ago . Today it goes for $140.
    Last edited by glenn bradley; 01-29-2023 at 8:46 AM.
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  7. #7
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    I donít have any drops for 240v tools in my 25x40 shop. Most of those, besides the table saw are along the perimeter. I have a raceway cover for that and it doesnít even bother my OCD. I have two 120v cord reels from Goodyear. One at each end of the shop, hanging from separate 20A circuits in the ceiling. Personally I love having them. Pretty much anything 120v these days is sub 15A so I donít get why people think they need more. Even my pressure washer is powered by it when I reel it out to wash my cars or motorcycle.

  8. #8
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    Two 20 amp 220v outlets dropped from the ceiling. Made entirely with parts from HD. As soon as my ambition level rises I am going to add a third outlet to this circuit. I will use one box above the two existing and let the feed wire go out the bottom of the new box to feed the two existing.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  9. #9
    Another option is to create simple columns that can hold electrical conduit & dust piping. These are just "L" shapes made from 1x material.



  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Hayward View Post
    Two 20 amp 220v outlets dropped from the ceiling. Made entirely with parts from HD. As soon as my ambition level rises I am going to add a third outlet to this circuit. I will use one box above the two existing and let the feed wire go out the bottom of the new box to feed the two existing.
    Robert, I don't see a strain relief on the cord where it meets the box on the ceiling...you may want to consider that, especially if you're going to add more weight with an additional receptacle. The strain relief thingies (technical term... ) are a braided wire mesh that surrounds the cord and is physically connected to the box. As the pull increases on the cord, the braid tightens and provides support so the cord cannot stretch which in extreme cases, can cause it to fair with potential fire/electrocution risk.

    ------

    My two drops from above are on 2x3 posts but the tools they service are not generally going to move around. The posts also support the dust collection drops for the islands. That will not work for the OP if the plan is to move tools in and out of the center of the space while working.

    IMG_3652.jpg
    Last edited by Jim Becker; 01-30-2023 at 1:06 PM.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  11. #11
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    I have seen a cord reel that had melted down to a blob of copper and blackened plastic. That's what happens when you run a substantial load on coiled up cord. I wouldn't use a cord reel unless it had an interlock to prevent it being energized unless the reel is fully unwound.

  12. #12
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    I think cord reels are okay. I've got two in my shop, have had for years, and no issues. They can be very useful for all the things you can't plan for, and can't run a cord to the wall for. In some cases they can remove the trip hazard of a cord on the floor.

    The concerns about them are warranted, but if you buy a reel rated for 15-20 amps you should be as fine as any other electrical device in the home. The issue seems to come that most of the ones actually capable of 15-20 amps are expensive, so people buy the el cheapo models, and then overamp them leading to overheating and other issues. A lot of people get away with this because the actual draw for most things isn't more than a few amps. That is not the case in a woodworking shop, and people should plan accordingly.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Pratt View Post
    I have seen a cord reel that had melted down to a blob of copper and blackened plastic. That's what happens when you run a substantial load on coiled up cord. I wouldn't use a cord reel unless it had an interlock to prevent it being energized unless the reel is fully unwound.
    Pulling more current than the cord is rated for isn't a problem anyone can solve...as they say, you can't fix stupid. Most reels, including mine rated for 20A, have a built-in fuse. I really have no idea why being rolled up has any relevancy unless you are way over the limit. Reel or cord, it is irrelevant how it is constructed if "melting" becomes the point of failure. I've had mine for years, zero problems and zero missuses.

    As Andrew pointed out, maybe people are buying cheap-o reels rated for well below 15A (typical house hold 120V). I know mine were expensive not just for the current rating but also the quality of the reel.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Becker View Post
    Robert, I don't see a strain relief on the cord where it meets the box on the ceiling...you may want to consider that,
    Attached is a picture of what I think you are talking about. If so, one in the correct diameter to fit 12 gauge SO cord the length of the mesh is usually around 5"~6". Not long enough to do much more than the clamp I currently have at the box, in my opinion.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  15. #15
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    Yes, that's what I was referring to, Robert.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

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